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Lake Worth's Bark Back Benefit Returns With a Block Party and Adoptable Dogs

Photo by Matt McCarthy
Mick Rude, holding dog, joins members of Boynton Beach Police Department and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue.
After the furriest members of our families pass away, most of us mourn, maybe get a photo of our beloved pup screened on a T-shirt, and move on, maybe at some point welcoming a new addition to the household.

Mick Rude and Stefanie Smerkers did something very different — they found a music festival.

Five years ago, these powerhouse musicians and local badasses — Rude of Spred the Dub and Smerkers of the Copper Tones — lost beloved pets in quick succession. To honor their memories, they started the Bark Back Benefit in partnership with the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League. The goal of the yearly event is to raise money for the non-profit animal shelter and find homes for some deserving doggos.

This year marks the fifth edition of the Bark Back Benefit in Lake Worth, and it’s bigger than ever. In fact, the fundraiser has grown so big, it's taking over an entire street, Second Avenue South. Hosted by Mathews Brewing Company, this year Bark Back will feature 23 bands and extend out into the surrounding areas just west of Highway 1 for what promises to be a full-blown block party.

The festival will feature three stages: An indoor acoustic stage at Mathews, a DJ stage at the brewery’s outdoor beer garden, and the main stage in the parking lot of Family Bicycle. (See artist lineups and stage schedules below.)

Rude, frontman for Spred the Dub, says Mathews Brewing is one of his favorite venues in South Florida.

Opened in 2017, Lake Worth's first brewery is owned by Dave Mathews, lover of good beer, good music, and dogs. “He knows how to do a brewery right," Rude says, "and it’s right in the heart of downtown Lake Worth.”

Rude notes that every beer Mathew Brewing sells, a dollar goes to Peggy Adams League. "He also makes great beer,” Rude says with a chuckle.

Speaking of money, 100 percent of the proceeds from Bark Back ticket sales goes to Peggy Adams, which operates solely from donations to provide the many services related to sheltering rescues and preparing dogs for adoption.

As for the bands, they aren’t technically playing for free, but for the most part, Saturday's appearances will be a labor of love, with their time and talents serving as their donations to a good cause.

“We’re paying them gas money, basically,” Rude says. “We’ve even offered to pay some of the bands and they’ve said, 'No. Put that money towards the charity,' which is always a great thing.”
click to enlarge
Mick Rude, at left, and Spred the Dub members with Bark Back pups.
Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Batcha-Cobban
Rude says the goal is “to have a successful event.” Last year's Bark Back raised roughly $30,000, blowing past organizers' initial hope for $25,000. “This year, with the block thing, I’d love to see $50,000.”

Live music is the draw for Bark Back's fundraising efforts, but Saturday's benefit will also feature silent auctions and raffles, with prizes that include a surfboard from Nomad’s, a week-long vacation getaway in Tennessee, fishing charters, and more.

Though the weekend forecast shows South Florida temps dipping into the low 70s, Saturday night's "First Responders Walk the Rescue Runway" show promises to heat things up in downtown Lake Worth.

Rude says about seven adoption-ready dogs will be paraded down the catwalk by Palm Beach County firefighters and Boynton Beach police officers. Other dogs that need homes will be spotlighted throughout the day. Peggy Adams Leaguers will also be on site, en force, with their big dog carrier bus, to answer questions and assist with adoptions.

Festivalgoers are welcome to bring their dogs, but they must have all their shots and they must be comfortable around people, loud noises, and general chaos. Bark Back will provide a dog cooling station and a dog rest area, and a “doggy pit stop" at the event.

One sad note will accompany this year's Bark Back. Sons of a Tradesman, scheduled for a set on the main stage ahead of the First Responders Walk, lost friend, brother, and bassist Nick Polycarpo to a car accident earlier this month. The band's Facebook page says Sons will play half of its set with just three of its members, then for the remainder of the set, several guest musicians will step in on bass.

Rude says he’s not surprised Sons of a Tradesman decided to play the benefit despite the tragedy.

“Those dudes will soldier on through anything. I think this is going to be just as therapeutic as it is an amazing way to show their heads are still in it and a way to honor their boy.”

Bark Back Benefit V set times and stages:

Main Stage

2-2:40 p.m. Beautiful Disaster
2:55-3:40 p.m. Slip and the Spinouts
3:55-4:40 p.m. The Copper Tones
4:55-5:40 p.m. Control This
5:55-6:45 p.m. Sons of a Tradesman
7 p.m. First Responders Walk the Rescue Runway
7:45-8:30 p.m. No Name Ska Band
8:45-9:30 p.m. The Reality
9:45-10:30 p.m. Spred the Dub
10:45-11:30 p.m. Surfer Blood

Etta Acoustic Stage

2-2:45 p.m. Micah Scott
3-3:45 p.m. Jakob Takos
4-4:45 p.m. Perry Strait
5-5:45 p.m. Mykal Lee Morrison
6-6:45 p.m. Adam Sheetz
7:45-8:30 p.m. Carly Jo Johnson
8:45-9:30 p.m. Sierra and Allegra

Bear DJ Stage

2-3 p.m. Alvaro
3-4 p.m.  MR
4-5 p.m.  TBA
5-6 p.m.  Marlon Foster
6-7 p.m.   DJ Money
8-9 p.m.   Alan Sennett
9-10 p.m.   Antadope
10-11 p.m.  Marlon Foster

Bark Back Benefit V. 2 to 11:30 p.m., Saturday, November 16, at Mathews Brewing Company, 130 S. H St., Lake Worth; Tickets cost $10 to $50 via